Strawberry's Sports Grill
42-15 235th St.
Douglaston, NY 11363
Located just steps from the Douglaston Long Island Railroad Station, Strawberry's Sports Grill opened in the summer of 2010. Mets great Darryl Strawberry is the proprietor of the sports bar/restaurant. A standard-size bar area complements three dining rooms, with high-def televisions visible wherever one is located.
New York baseball memorabilia covers the walls and ceiling of Strawberry's. Think autographed jerseys, team banners, replica World Series trophies and even seats from Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium. The Mets dominate the décor, but Darryl's stint with the Yankees is also well-documented. A shrewd move, I suppose, appealing to as many fanbases as possible. On the particular Saturday night I dined at Strawberry's, I noted at least a dozen Mets shirts or hats worn by patrons in the crowded joint. No Yankees merchandise was documented. Perhaps the Queens location naturally lends itself to a Met-centric clientele.
The wait-staff dons replica Mets and Yankees jerseys, with Darryl's number on the back. Servers are friendly without being obtrusive. Nothing interrupts a meal like nonstop "how is everything?" inquiries and these are limited to just the right amount. Darryl and other former ballplayers have been known to drop in for a bite -- Keith Hernandez and Roberto Alomar have visited in recent months.
The appetizer roster consists of standards like Chicken Wings and Spinach Artichoke Dip. The Nachos with Three Cheeses ($9), topped with black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole, is hefty in portion, enough to warm up three or four diners prior to the main course. The sour cream is applied minimally; the guacamole, generously. The latter is above average and light on the saltiness, so the toppings proportion is welcome.
The beer selection is strong, with Blue Point, Magic Hat and Chimay among the choices. For the baseball-themed cocktail enthusiast, concoctions like the Sac Fly (Stoli Orange, pink lemonade, club soda) are available.
A regular I spoke with at the bar before sitting down to eat told me that the Strawberry's burgers are better than any on restaurant hotspot Bell Boulevard in nearby Bayside. A bold statement, to be sure, but the advice guided my decision to choose the 1969 Burger ($11) over the BBQ and sandwich options on the menu. The opinion of the kindly customer was validated -- the juicy 1969 hooked me at first bite. It is a cheeseburger with crispy onions and house sauce. I ordered it medium rare, and that is exactly how it was prepared. Bonus points to Strawberry's for actually listening to its customers. Six out of ten (note: just a guess) burger places disregard the customer's request nowadays, simply cooking the meat however they please. The crispy onions are a bit stringy, the only drawback to an otherwise enjoyable burger and fries offering.
Strawberry's meets expectations as a sports bar with a lively atmosphere. But the food quality exceeds expectations, earning it a spot on my list of pre- and post-game spots during baseball season. And as an establishment for whenever my dining party craves some Mets ambience with its meal. A caveat -- parking spots outside Strawberry's are scarce. The options are trying one's luck on a metered street spot or paying $3 for a parking lot. Traveling via train is recommended, and the Douglaston station connects to Citi Field and Penn Station in Manhattan.
Rating, on a scale from Alex Cora to Tom Seaver